Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Dallas, Texas
St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Home Page St Nicholas the Wonderworker Go to the bottom of the page
Phone:972 529-2754

Redeeming the Time Vol. 02.14 10th Sun after Pentecost Aug 3/16 1998

Redeeming the Time

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church Dallas, TX

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

August 3/16, 1998

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

The exorcism of the Demoniac Son

Vol. 02.14

News and Announcements *

David Miller's back surgery *

St Nicholas Upcoming Events and Plans *

Choir Practice Meeting Time Set *

Paraklesis during the Dormition Fast. *

Transfiguration of the Lord Services *

Reader's classes *

Youth Group News *

Thanks to the Acolytes *

Dormition Fast *

Web site Statistics *

Questions about the Healing of the Demonic Son *

Questions about the Transfiguration *

Gleanings from the Fathers *

The Heart *

Love and baskets *

Answers to Questions about the Demoniac Son *











Answers to Questions about the Transfiguration *











News and Announcements

David Miller's back surgery

David is back at home, after his surgery. He will have quite a long recovery - perhaps he would appreciate a call (903 527-2327). Please remember to pray for David, especially during his recovery period.

St Nicholas Upcoming Events and Plans

Choir Practice Meeting Time Set

Last week the choir met and decided on the best meeting time. It was decided that the choir will practice every Sunday, at 1:30. All at the meeting pledged that they would make a good faith effort to attend all practices. There have been problems with this time before, but we are giving it another try.

Paraklesis during the Dormition Fast.

The Paraklesis to the Mother of God, with its sweetly sung canon, will be served most evenings of the fast, in either the rectory or the church. Please check the August calendar for details.

Transfiguration of the Lord Services

The Holy Transfiguration of the Savior will be celebrated with Vigil Tuesday evening, beginning at 6:30 PM, and Divine Liturgy Wednesday morning, at the bracing hour of 6:00 AM. It is a custom to bring grapes to be blessed on this day. They will be blessed after the vigil, for those who are unable to attend the Divine Liturgy because of work commitments, and also after the liturgy.

Reader's classes

There will be regular reader's classes soon, which will be obligatory for all those who wish to read in the church. Fr. Seraphim will be contacting the readers and those who wish to learn to become readers about this very soon. As we read for the edification of others, and to glorify God, we must learn to read in the correct manner, and with reverence, piety and a sense of responsibility. Reading is an honor to be taken very seriously. May God grant His mercy and grace upon our readers!

Youth Group News

The Youth Group will meet today to decide on a patron Saint. Everyone will be giving a report on the Saint they picked (or were assigned!)

Thanks to the Acolytes

The altar is very clean, and is staying that way, thanks to the labors of our acolytes, who are carefully following the cleanup checklist that is posted in the altar. It is an act of love and obedience to keep God's house clean, and the labors of our acolytes are much appreciated.

Dormition Fast

We are in the midst of the Dormition Fast, awaiting the Dormition of the Mother of God (Friday, August 15/28). We will certainly have vigil for this great feast, and Divine Liturgy in the morning. The fast is one of the strictest of the year. We abstain from all animal products (meat, cheese, milk, etc), as well as fish, olive oil, and wine all the days of the fast, with the following exceptions:

  • On the Transfiguration of the Lord (this coming week, Wed, Aug 5/18), we may eat fish, and of course, olive oil and wine
  • One the two weekends of the fast (Saturday and Sunday) we may have olive oil and wine, BUT NOT fish.

Web site Statistics

Our parish web site is at It contains all of the back issues of "Redeeming the Time", the "Questions and Answers about Orthodoxy" series, various transcribed sermons, our calendar and schedule for the month, and many other things. Statistics are kept for all of the pages. The total accesses of pages (only HTML pages) is over two hundred thousand (200,000)! This is in a little over a year. Our ministry is not just to ourselves, but to anyone who wishes to learn of Orthodoxy. The web page is an incredible tool to inform people about the Orthodox faith. Since there is an on-line directory of all ROCOR parishes also on the site, as well as links to many other ROCOR related web pages, our site has also been the first contact of many people who have joined our churches all over the world.

Questions about the Healing of the Demonic Son


The story of the exorcism of the demoniac son is read on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost and the 4th Sunday of Great Lent.

  1. Which gospels report it?
  2. Why is it read in the Great Lent, and in particular, in the latter half? Give two reasons. Hint: a major focus of Great Lent is mentioned in the gospel text.
  3. What major event happened just before the casting out of the demon in the father's son?
  4. Tell the composite story, using all three gospel accounts (in your own words)


"And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; {18} And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not." (Mark 9:17-18, see also Matt 17:15-16, Luke 9:38-40)

The man told Jesus he had asked His disciples to heal his son, and they could not. Which disciples? Why had he not gone to Jesus directly?


"And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child." (Mark 9:21, not in the other accounts)

Why did Christ ask the father about his son, since He knows all things?


Explain the folk understanding of what a lunatic is.


What were the virtues and vices of the father? Cite scripture as evidence.


"And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us." (Mark 9:22)What is the inner meaning of this?


"Then Jesus answered and said O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" (Matthew 17.17)

  1. Jesus' rebuke has deep inner meaning.
  2. Explain 2 meanings for Jesus' exclamation of "how long shall I be with you?"
  3. Explain the important connection between faithlessness and perversity.
  4. Who did Jesus rebuke?

QUESTION 8"And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?" (Mark 9:28, also Matt 17:19)

Why did the apostles ask the Lord in private concerning their inability to cast out the demon? Why were the apostles unable to heal the boy?


"And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? {29} And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:28-29)Prayer and fasting. How has the church applied this explanation to her daily life?


But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. (Mark 9.27)What does this mean?

Questions about the Transfiguration


Tell the story of the transfiguration, paying attention to the point in Jesus' ministry that it occurred. Which gospels report the Transfiguration?


What other event in our Lord's life has obvious similarities to the Transfiguration? Explain.


How did Jesus' transfiguration prepare the apostles for his subsequent crucifixion?


Our Lord's transfiguration contains a tacit but extremely important promise, upon which the whole of Orthodox ascetic theology is built. Comment on this. This emphasis is peculiar to Orthodoxy and is missing from the religions of the West. Speculate why.


What virulent relatively early heresy does the Transfiguration emphatically contradict? How?


When is the Transfiguration celebrated? Where are the texts of the services found? What services are celebrated? Explain the differences in the services for the feast if it falls on a weekday vs. a Sunday


What is the fasting Typicon on the Transfiguration?


Why were Moses and Elijah present on Mount Tabor?


Comment on how the dual nature of Christ was revealed on Mount Tabor, and the implications for our nature.


Comment on the implications of the Transfiguration, and the theology of St. Gregory Palamas.

Gleanings from the Fathers

The Heart

The heart governs all the members, and when grace fills all the pastures of the heart, it governs all thoughts and all members. For it is there that the mind and all the thoughts of the soul are found. Therefore, it is there that one must look to see whether the grace of the most Holy Spirit has inscribed therein His laws.

St. Maximus the Confessor

Love and baskets

It was said of a brother that having made some baskets, he was putting on the handles when he heard his neighbor saying to himself, "What can I do? Market day is near and I have no handles to put on my baskets." Then he took the handles off his own baskets and brought them to the brother, saying, "Here are these handles which I have left over. Take them and put them on your baskets." So he caused his brother's work to succeed by neglecting

his own.

Answers to Questions about the Demoniac Son


The healing of the demoniac son by Christ at the request of his father is reported in all three synoptic gospels:

  • Matthew 17:14-23
  • Luke 9:37-42
  • Mark 9:17-29 (4th Sunday of Great Lent)

The reading speaks of fasting, and is therefore apropos to read during the Great Fast, and especially in the latter half of the fast, when many are weary and need to be reminded of the importance of fasting. It gives the reason we fast, for those who have ears to hear.

At the end of this reading, Christ tells his disciples of His upcoming passion. This event was very near the end of his earthly ministry, just after He had shown His divinity to His specially chosen group of disciples, Peter, James and John, on Mount Tabor. (The church commemorates this important event, which was also a harbinger of the resurrection and its implications, as the Transfiguration, on June 6th.)

Just as He prepared His apostles and disciples by speaking of His upcoming passion, so the church prepares her children for the contemplation of the passion and the Resurrection by speaking of these things in the latter half of Great Lent. We must take our cues from the mind of the church, and the things she chooses to speak about and ponder. It is time now to set our face towards Jerusalem, finish the fast and be enlightened by the Resurrection. Let us redouble our efforts now, knowing what is shortly to come.

The Story:

A man with a son, whom he called a "lunatic", came to Jesus and begged him to heal his son, at the same time saying that he had taken his son to the apostles and they could not heal the boy. The man told Christ that the boy sometimes threw himself into the fire, and sometimes the water. Christ reacted with a complaint, about the "faithless and perverse" generation. He called the boy to Himself and rebuked the demon, casting him out. The boy appeared to be dead, but Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him up. The apostles came to Jesus when they were alone, and asked Him why they could not cast out the demon. He told them it was because of their unbelief, and "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting". He told them that if they had faith "as a mustard" seed that they could accomplish anything. Immediately after this, He told His apostles of His upcoming betrayal, death and resurrection.


The man approached the remaining disciples left behind when Jesus ascended Mt. Tabor with Peter, James and John. He approached them not only because Jesus was gone, but also because the disciples had been given the power to heal, and this was well known. Requests to them were quite common.


Jesus often asked questions so that the answer could be heard by those around Him. As the God-man, He knew all things, and had no need to ask questions, but we need to hear the answers! In this case, our Lord wanted us to fully understand the evil condition of the boy, and the hopelessness of his father. After the healing, people would remember how terrible the former state of the boy was, and marvel at the power of God.

In the exorcism prayers at the making of a catechumen, the priest says of the demons: "...who hath not even power over swine..." . The church knows the demons are powerless before God. One single angel or the lowest rank is incomparably more powerful than the whole host of demons. We poor ones need to remember the power of God and not be fooled by the parlor tricks and subterfuge of the demons.


There was and is a prevalent superstition that the moon can cause madness. Lunatics were believed to be those who were affected by the moon ("luna" means "moon"), and went mad when it was in certain stages. Of course, true Christians understand that the moon has nothing to do with madness, or with demon possession, which often makes a person appear to be mad. The crafty demons want people to believe in the moon, while they remain invisible, and their evil actions unknown and concealed.


Like most people, the father was a mixture of good and bad. He had very slight belief, a mere wisp of belief, weak and unsteady, but it was enough to cause him to (imperfectly) beg Christ for healing, and to receive it.

We can see the man's unbelief and complaining spirit in the way he asks Christ for healing. He does not blame himself, as he should, but blames others:

"And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; {18} And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not." (Mark 9:17-18)

Christ clearly shows the man that it is HIS unbelief and depravity which has contributed to his son's terrible state (Christ's rebuke is more far-reaching than this one point. See a question which addresses this, below). There is a clear lesson here for parents who will hear it. We must hold ourselves accountable for the good upbringing of our children.

"And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither." (Luke 9:41)

The father shows the germ of belief, or, shall we say, a small seed, not only by bringing his son to Christ, but also by his plaintive cry:

"And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24)


The Fathers reveal the mind of the church concerning the inner meaning of the demonized boy falling into fire and water. These two things summarize the sins of mankind. Fire represents "hot" things - anger and desire (lust, hatred, etc). Water represents the "pounding surf of worldly cares". (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9) The demons entice us in turns with temptations to both of these kind of sins.

Let us not make the fatal mistake of understanding the plight of the boy to be possible only for the demon possessed. We poor Christians constantly allow ourselves to fall into the fire and the water, and in so doing, according to the mind of the church, we reveal in ourselves a kind of insanity. The fire of lust and desire burns more surely and completely than a material fire and the abyss of worldly cares and misplaced priorities drowns the soul. We must flee the fire and the water. At the end of the passage are important instructions each Christian must follow if he is to flee the fire and water. See another question, below.


Our Lord's statement, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" (Matthew 17.17) was uttered near the end of His earthly ministry, and before His Great Passion.

He was expressing a longing to be back with His Father, and to leave the corrupt earth, because it was a torment for Him to coexist among so many with corrupt belief (Bl. Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9, and Matthew 17) He was also prophesying the nearness of His passion, and departure from the earth.

Jesus' rebuke was directed towards many. He rebuked the father for his unbelief and perversity, and in so doing taught him to take responsibility for his actions. He rebuked the child, for as Blessed Theophylact says, "... it appears that he too, lacked faith and his lack of faith had given occasion for the demon to enter him" (Commentary on Matt 17:16-18). He also rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, because He smelled the stench of their unbelief.

Christ emphatically shows the relationship between perversity and unbelief. In our day, many fool themselves and compartmentalize their lives, because they do not understand the relationship of their actions and their belief. Perversity is acting in ways that are contrary to our nature. (See Theophylact, Commentary on Luke 9:37-33) We were created for holiness and purity. To the pure, all things are pure, and they are given the ability to understand the depths of holy things, as God reveals them. On the contrary, the perverse are unable to believe. Their perversity breeds faithlessness, which in turn estranges them from the source of all good, increasing their perversity.

Christian, mark these words of our Lord well. If you suffer from doubts, or despondency, blame your perversity! Examine yourself carefully: what part of God's law are you foolishly ignoring? Are you making excuses for your inconsistent fasting, or prayer, or attendance at the divine services? If you are not availing yourself of these mercies, then you have found the cause of your unbelief. Are you battling your lust or anger or jealously, or giving in to these abominable things at the slightest provocation? You have found another cause of your unbelief. Are you preoccupied with wordly cares and concerns, so much so that you are like the "double minded man", who is "unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) God is not responsible for your unbelief, or your perversity. Acknowledge your sin, run to confession, and begin to live fiercely as an Orthodox Christian and the sweet breeze of belief will refresh you.

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. {18} Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. {19} Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. {20} But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:17-20)


The apostles were afraid that they had lost the grace of God, since they had been able to heal so freely before encountering the demon possessed boy. This was well after the Lord had sent them out to heal, saying: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: {6} But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {7} And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Mat 10:5-8)

They were unable to heal the boy because of their unbelief. The father's entreaties to them were likewise not answered because of his unbelief. Also, the demons in the boy were firmly implanted. Our Lord makes it clear in His answer to His apostles that such firmly implanted demons (and in the case of all men, whether demons live within them or not, their passions) can only be expelled by great effort, the assiduous application of God's laws, and the consistency of a life lived in the mind of the church:

"Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? {20} And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. {21} Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Mat 17:19-21)


It is axiomatic for those who have experienced God's strengthening that prayer AND fasting are utterly necessary in order to purify the soul. The church has always understood this important connection between our bodies and our souls. Only in our evil days do so many who call themselves Christian, even the Orthodox, ignore God's laws concerning this most necessary weapon we must employ if we wish to be victorious in the arena of our life.

We poor ones are beset by many weaknesses and passions. Many of these things cannot be extricated except by great desire and hope in God, and the natural results of this desire - the following of God's laws and instructions. Here our Lord shows us that some of those things that cast us into the fire and the water can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. We are foolish if we do not heed these words or if we heed them partially, according to our convenience and whims.


This short description describes in microcosm the synergy between God and man, and the way we must go for our salvation.

By taking the boy by the hand, Christ shows us that He is the only One who can strengthen man's power to act. Without God's help, man can do nothing. The whole power of the incarnation is shown here. Christ took on our flesh, and imbued it with the potential for perfection. He continually strengthens man's will, and makes him able to comprehend the Godhead, and become like God in moral perfection. (See Bl. Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9:19-27)

We must understand however, this important truth: "God first helps us, and then we ourselves are required to work" (Ibid.). This is clearly indicated by the boy arising. He was initially helped, then he stood up of his own accord. This arising is the necessary effort of a man himself to do good.

A Christian will not be saved, unless he makes a great effort. Christian! Know from Whom your ability is given and why grace comes to enlighten and strengthen you, and then work on your salvation with fear and trembling.

Answers to Questions about the Transfiguration


The gospels very laconically report the Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, James and John up to a high mountain, which was Mount Tabor. It was late, and the disciples were overcome with sleep. They awoke to see Him transfigured before them. He did not change in form, remaining a man in all respects, but his face and garments shone with a light brighter than the sun. This is the "uncreated light", which a man can only see when God reveals Himself to him, and this is only given to the pure of heart, save for some special circumstances, such as the one we are concerned with here. With Christ were Moses and Elias, who spoke with him "things concerning His decease". Peter, in confusion, offered to build three tabernacles for the two Saints and the Lord. After this, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice was heard from heaven, which said "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear ye Him". After this, the cloud disappeared, and Christ appeared as He usually was. He strictly charged them to tell of the vision to nobody else, until He was risen from the dead, and they descended the mountain.

The Transfiguration is reported in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-9 and Luke 9:28-36


The church understands the Transfiguration to be a "Theophany", that is a revelation of the Holy Trinity, just as occurred also at the baptism of the Lord. The services are quite explicit about this.

"Dwelling bodily on earth, /

Christ, the Light from before the sun, /

Who before His crucifixion fulfilled all things of His awesome dispensation in godly manner, /

today hath mystically shown forth on Mount Tabor the image of the Trinity; /

for, taking His three excellent disciples, Peter, James and John, /

He led them up to it together. /

And having hidden His guise of flesh for a little while,/

He was transfigured before them, /

revealing the majesty of His original beauty, though not completely. /

And while making it known to them, /

He also took pity upon them, lest they in anywise cease to live because of what they saw: /

yet were they able to grasp with their bodily eyes, holding fast. /

And Thou didst summon Moses and Elijah, the foremost of the prophets, /

who bore witness reliably concerning Thy divinity, /

and that it is the true effulgence of the essence of the Father, /

O Thou Who hast dominion over the living and the dead. /

Wherefore, the cloud enfolded them like a tabernacle,/

and the voice of the Father testified, /

speaking forth from the cloud like thunder, saying: /

"This is My beloved Son, /

Whom I begat incorruptibly from within Me before the morning star, /

and Whom I have sent to save /

those who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, /

and who confess with faith that the one dominion of the Godhead is indivisible! /

Hear ye Him!" /

And do Thou Thyself, O Christ God Who lovest mankind, /

illumine us with the light of Thine unapproachable glory, /

and show us forth as worthy heirs of Thy kingdom which is without end, //

in that Thou art all good.

(Litya for the Feast, Tone 2)

"The pillar of fire plainly showed to Moses Christ transfigured, and the cloud pointed clearly to the grace of the Spirit that overshadowed Mount Tabor"

(matins, second canon, Ode 6, 3rd Troparion)


Much of the meaning of a particular event is revealed in the holy services, especially Vespers and Matins. This is why it is absolutely necessary for a Christian to zealously attend the Vigil service. The services, and the commentaries of the holy fathers, which have entered into the mind of the church, explain that the apostles were prepared for the crucifixion by witnessing the Transfiguration, and the "splendor of the resurrection" that it prefigured. They would soon be subjected to terrible temptations and fears, and our Savior wanted to put the knowledge of His divinity indelibly in their minds, to help them in the terrible days of his trial and death.

Kontakion of the Feast, Tone 7:

On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, /

and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could bear it, O Christ God; /

that when they would see Thee crucified, /

they would comprehend that Thy suffering was voluntary, /

and proclaim to the world that Thou art of a truth //

the Effulgence of the Father.

Before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, /

the mountain emulated the heavens, /

and the cloud spread itself out like a tabernacle /

when Thou wast transfigured and borne witness to by the Father. /

There were Peter, James and John, /

for they were to be with Thee also at the time of Thy betrayal, /

that, beholding Thy wonders, /

they might not be afraid of Thy sufferings, /

which do Thou vouchsafe that we may venerate in peace, //

for the sake of Thy great mercy.

( First Sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

Taking the disciples up upon the lofty mountain /

before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, /

Thou wast transfigured before them, /

illumining them with effulgence of power, /

desiring both in Thy love for mankind and in Thine authority /

to show them the splendor of the resurrection, /

which do thou vouchsafe unto us in peace, //

in that Thou art merciful and lovest mankind.

(Third Sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)


The light that shone from Christ is the "uncreated light". It is, as the fathers teach, the "uncreated energies" of God, which all worthy ones will partake of in the last day. God is absolutely transcendent, and unknowable, except as He chooses to reveal Himself. Through the God-man, Jesus Christ, He has made himself knowable, but in His energies only, and not His essence. "God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord". St. Basil the Great expresses the mind of the church on this matter: "We know God through His energies, and we cannot presume to approach His essence. Because His energies reach us, but His essence remains inaccessible". The one who was an "eye witness of His majesty" (2 Peter 1: 16) knew well the implications of the transfiguration of the HUMAN flesh of the God-man:

"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: {4} Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. " (2 Pet 1:3-4)

The knowledge of this "partaking" of divine nature is ever present in the theology of the Orthodox church. God became man precisely to make our flesh capable of apprehending the divinity. No one can become God, but we have been promised that we will be "partakers of His divine nature". All of our life is appointed towards this end.

St. Gregory Palamas teaches about this important reality quite often:

"So, when the saints contemplate this divine light within themselves, seeing it by the divinising communion of the Spirit, through the mysterious visitations of perfecting illuminations - then they behold the garment of their deification, their mind being glorified and filled by the grace of the Word, beautiful beyond measure in His splendor; just as the divinity of the Word on the mountain glorified with divine light the body conjoined to it. For `the glory which the Father gave Him, He Himself has given to those obedient to Him, as the Gospel says, and `He willed that they should be with Him and contemplate His glory..' " (St. Gregory Palamas, The Triads)

"David, the ancestor of God, foreseeing in the Spirit /

the coming of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh unto men, /

summoneth creation from afar to gladness, /

and crieth out prophetically: /

"Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name!" /

For, having ascended that mountain with Thy disciples, O Savior, /

Thou wast transfigured, /

and didst cause the darkened nature of Adam to shine again, /

imparting to it the glory and splendor of Thy divinity. /

Wherefore, we cry unto Thee: //

O Lord, Creator of all things, glory be to Thee!"

(Great Vespers for the feast, Aposticha, Tone 1)

In the West, the idea of the transfiguration of human nature was not emphasized. Relatively early, it fell captive to a legalistic view of salvation. What a man believes, and to whom he submits in the organization of the church (i.e., the Pope of Rome) became more important than anything else, and the ascetical practices of Christianity, such as fasting, was lost to a great degree. Their understanding of salvation was almost like a contract, whereas in the East it was always understood that the incarnation of the Son of God, and His revelation of the uncreated light, while in the flesh, to men in the flesh, implies that man can become holy and share in the energies of God. We are not just "saved", in the sense of not being punished, but we are made able to be partakers of divine nature.


The heresy of "Arianism" states that Jesus Christ is a created being, greater in glory and honor than all other creatures, but created nonetheless, and therefore inferior to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. The uncreated light that came forth from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the bright cloud, and voice of the Father in the cloud emphatically contradicts such blasphemous conjectures.


The feast of the Transfiguration of the Savior is celebrated on Aug 6, and is the last feast of the Lord in the year, which begins on September 1st.

The service is found in the "Festal Menaion". This book contains the service texts and rubrics (instructions) for 9 of the "twelve great feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos". These commemorations all occur on the same date every year, and are not dependent on when Pascha occurs, which is always on a Sunday, but a different date, each year. The "movable" feasts of the Lord are, preeminently, Pascha, and also Palm Sunday, Ascension, and Pentecost. All these services are found in the Pentecostarion, with the exception of Palm Sunday, which is found in the Lenten Triodion.

The services in the Festal Menaion, in "chronological" (according to their celebration) order, are

1. The Nativity of the Theotokos (8 Sept)

2. The Universal Exaltation of Precious and Life-giving Cross (14 Sept)

3. The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary into the Temple (21 Nov)

4. The Nativity of Christ (25 Dec)

5. Holy Theophany (the baptism of the Lord) (6 Jan)

6. The Meeting of the Savior (2 Feb)

7. The Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (25 Mar)

8. The Transfiguration (6 Aug)

9. The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (15 Aug)

The Service for Transfiguration, like all great feasts of the Lord, totally supplants the normal Sunday or daily services, and is served the same way, regardless of what day it falls on.

The Eve of the feast, a vigil, consisting of Great Vespers, Litya, matins and the first hour, is served. In the morning, the Divine Liturgy is served, with special festal antiphons. After the liturgy, grapes are blessed, with a prayer given in the texts for the feast.

This feast should never be compressed into the "fast food" mentality inherent in the so-called "Vespral Divine liturgy" which is a recent innovation, along with so many other innovations which cater to convenience, and making things "easier". The theology present in the holy services is so important that excluding the hymns of matins, or the greater part of vespers, in order to make the feast a 1 day celebration, so "more people can come" and people can "have communion" (without the preparation and teaching that is inherent in the Holy services that precede Divine Liturgy) since most cannot or will not come to church the morning on a weekday, is extremely misguided. There is no "Vespral Divine Liturgy" prescribed in any Typicon for any of the great feasts, as this service is ALWAYS served as part of the "lead in" to a feast, and at that, only four times a year (The day before the Nativity of the Savior and Theophany, and Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday) .


The Transfiguration of the Lord occurs during the fast for the Dormition of the Theotokos. On this day, fish may be eaten, as well as wine and olive oil, all of which are not eaten on strict fast days, but all meat, cheese and eggs (all animal products) are not eaten.


Moses represented the law, and Elijah the prophets. Both the law and the prophets spoke of and pointed to Christ, and were in complete agreement with Him, as their conversation on Mount Tabor shows. Their presence together with the apostles also underscored that God is the God of the "living and the dead".

"Transfigured on the high mountain, /

the Savior, having with Him His pre-eminent disciples,/

shone forth most wondrously, /

showing them forth as illumined by the loftiness of the virtues /

and as ones vouchsafed divine glory. /

Moses and Elijah, who spake with Christ, /

showed that He hath authority over the living and the dead, /

and that He is the God Who of old spake through the law and the prophets. /

Of Him was the voice of the Father heard saying from the cloud of light: /

"Him do ye obey, /

Who through the Cross made hell captive //

and granteth life everlasting to the dead!"

(Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

"Moses the God-beholder and Elijah of the fiery chariot, /

who traversed the heavens without being consumed,/

beholding Thee, O Christ, in the cloud at Thy transfiguration, /

bore witness to Thee /

as the Creator and Fulfiller of the law and the prophets. /

With them vouchsafe Thine enlightenment also unto us, O Master, //

that we may hymn Thee forever."

(Sticheron for "Now and Ever", Aposticha)

The Vespral OT readings provide further mystical illumination concerning the presence of Moses and Elijah. The former asked to see God face to face, and the latter heard Him in the "still small voice". Both intimately experienced the energies of God. Their experiences were a harbinger of things to come.


When Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor, He remained a man. His human flesh shown with the uncreated light, and His divinity and humanity was readily apparent at the same time. This is a promise for those who love Him, and follow his commandments. Our flesh has been made capable of apprehending the divine energies.

"Revealing the human form /

of Thy second and awesome coming with Thy glory, O Savior, /

Thou wast transfigured on Mount Tabor. /

Elijah and Moses conversed with Thee, /

and Thy three disciples were summoned to behold Thy glory, O Master, /

and marveled at Thy radiance. //

O Thou Who then shone forth Thy light upon them, illumine our souls! "

( Matins, First sessional Hymn, Tone 4)


St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), was an Athonite ascetic who became Archbishop of Thessalonica. The second Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to him.

St. Gregory successfully fought against a prevailing heresy of his day which denied the possibility of ever experiencing or knowing God - in a way surpassing the knowledge of the mind. Adherents of this heresy claimed that in this life one could only know about God.

St. Gregory made a distinction between the divine essence of God, which remains inaccessible to men, and the divine energies, such as the light of transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, which are uncreated but accessible to human vision. [also manifested in the countenance of the Prophet Moses after descending the mountain, and by Saint Seraphim during his conversation with Motovilov, etc...] From his own mystical experience, St. Gregory defended the possibility of attaining true union with God, which is, in fact, the aim of all Christian endeavor: "The kingdom of God lies within" (Luke 17:21). This is the essence of the teaching called hesychasm which advocates the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer and quieting of both soul and body in order that the prayer might act to warm the heart with unceasing remembrance and burning love for God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

In the very Name of Jesus a great and graceful power is present. Many holy and righteous people advise repeating the Jesus Prayer (also known as the Prayer of the Heart) as frequently as possible. The Hesychasts, who practiced the Jesus Prayer unceasingly, were defended by St. Gregory Palamas in two Councils that met in Constantinople in 1341 and 1347.

St. Gregory Palamas upheld a doctrine of man which allowed for the use of bodily exercises in prayer. He also argued, against the heretic Barlaam, that it was possible for man to experience God's energies as Uncreated Light - identical with the Divine and Uncreated Light of Tabor which the three disciples saw surrounding Jesus at His Transfiguration.

St. Gregory said, "If in the age to come the body will share with the soul in unspeakable blessings, it is certain that it must share in them, so far as possible, even now." Indeed, even in this present life some saints have experienced the first-fruits of this visible and bodily glorification. Saint Seraphim of Sarov is perhaps the best known, but by no means the only instance of this.

"When God is said to have made man according to His image, the word man means neither the soul by itself nor the body by itself, but the two together." The fact that man has a body, St. Gregory said, makes him not lower but higher than the bodiless angels. The Orthodox belief is that the body is sanctified and transfigured together with the soul. This is the reason we have such an immense reverence for the relics of saints.

To overcome the passions which enslave us, we need to transform our hearts which are darkened by sin. The Church gives us what we need to perform this task. During the Great Fast we follow the Church's lenten prescription. This prepares us to receive the spiritual instruction offered each week.

St. Gregory Palamas shows us clearly by his whole life that the Christian life, Orthodox life, always begins in our heart, and only then expresses itself externally in feats of asceticism. St. Gregory helps us to understand the importance of prayer. Prayer is what we need more than anything - true, fervent, real prayer - heartfelt prayer.

The triumph of Orthodoxy always starts in a person's heart, and only afterwards is it expressed externally. True, sometimes there are cases when the external attracts the heart, as if waking it up. But for this to happen, there must be something in the heart which makes such an awakening possible. God demands our heart. To serve God without heart, Orthodoxy without heart, this is the same as a man without heart.

Thanks for Fr Mark Gilstrap. All of the preceding is from a post written by him, to the Orthodox "Indiana" mailing list, on 16 Mar 1995. The text has been slightly rearranged.

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